Even the phone’s web browser – (article:Opera-Mobile-9-5-Beta Opera Mobile 9.5) – has been tweaked a little to make it easier to use: slide your finger up and down the right of the screen and a zoom control appears, adding the ability to make fine adjustments to the standard quick zoom and overview mode. Every tap of the screen is accompanied by a haptic feedback buzz – a luxurious extra that iPhone owners can’t boast of – and the small square select button at the bottom of the screen, between the start and end call keys, is also touch sensitive and can act as a tiny trackpad, moving a cursor around the screen, or a four-way directional control.
Unfortunately, Windows Mobile, despite Samsung’s best efforts, just refuses to go away. Many of the Omnia’s advanced settings screens are still fiddly and strewn with check boxes. It can be confusing at times, too, with several settings screens available in Samsung or Microsoft modes, depending on where you launch them from.
But the Omnia has a more serious Achilles heel: its text entry method. Like the iPhone, typing is carried out on a touchscreen keyboard but the Samsung’s, I’m afraid, just doesn’t work very well.
The hardware itself is partly to blame – the screen isn’t quite as responsive as the iPhone’s and its smaller size doesn’t help either – but the design of the keyboard is the main issue. It just doesn’t provide enough visual feedback and the keys aren’t separated from each other by enough dead space to be usable. It’s far too easy to hit a neighbouring key by accident and in landscape mode I pressed the Send soft key while writing an email more than once. It’s frustrating, fiddly and not conducive to typing emails, notes or making edits to office documents quickly and though one could replace it with something less frustrating, it doesn’t change the fact the screen isn’t as responsive as it could be.
Last, but by no means least, battery life is far from wonderful. With the phone hooked up to an Exchange server I managed to extract just a day and a half of light to medium use from the phone. You can extend this to two or possibly even three days by using POP3 or IMAP email and downloading mail manually, of course, but in doing this you’d be missing out on one of the phone’s key selling points – instantly delivered e-mail.
Though not perfect, its negative points don’t make Samsung’s Omnia a bad handset. It has a very good camera, is very responsive, has an excellent web browser and all the usual advantages of Windows Mobile devices like slick Outlook syncronisation, Office document compatibility and a raft of free downloadable applications. Unfortunately, these key strengths are less consumer orientated and this is largely a handset meant for them, not businessmen or women. This means that despite some clear promise, it still struggles to compete with the iPhone as a conusmer handset.